Rabbi Hillel is well known for his description of Judaism. When approached by an individual who demanded that he would accept Judaism only if a rabbi could teach him the entire Torah while he, the prospective convert, stood on one foot, Rabbi Hillel said:
“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation of this – go and study it!”
A teenager studying for confirmation once said to me that all of Judaism could be expressed with the following thought:
“Do the right thing and give thanks for everything.”
Together the two statements speak of our faithfulness to God and Torah, but the idea of giving thanks is particularly evident in this week’s Torah portion, Eikev. “When you have eaten your fill, give thanks to Adonai your God …” (Deuteronomy. 8:10). We know to express gratitude for food with blessings – with Hamotzi before we eat and Birkat Hamazon afterward – but developing gratitude for all that is good in our lives will make us more patient, more understanding, more satisfied and better able to handle the stresses of daily life.
To help cultivate an “attitude of gratitude,” when someone ask “How are you?” try responding with “Grateful.” Where the conversation goes from there may surprise you!